UK government science spending claims blasted

The British government’s claims over science and engineering spending have attracted ire from the opposition and a leading science and engineering body over its continued cuts.

In a Commons debate, science Minister David Willets heralded a total of £793 million spent for science and research 2011-12.

Responding to a query from Conservative MP Jane Ellison over what capital expenditure has been made available, Willets pointed to initiatives such as “an additional £145 million in high performance computing”.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills informed TechEye that the new figure of £793 million capital expenditure accounts for; £548 million capital allocations for science; £100 million capital spending on science as announced in the Budget 2011; and the high performance computing spending announced at the Party Conference.

This also includes recent announcements for £50 million funding for graphene research.

Despite Willetts’ claims that capital spending on science and research is “comparable” with figures for spending under the previous administration, he has been attacked by the shadow science minister.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah said that recent claims that “all long-term economic growth was linked to innovation”, businesses are being “denied the innovation support they need”.

Citing cuts of “12 percent” to the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), she asked the opposition minister “If innovation is the engine of growth, why is the Secretary of State doing so much to damage it?”

CaSE’s director, Imran Khan, also feels that, despite some high profile announcements, the government is still not doing enough to support its claims to bring about a shift in economic focus for innovation and development.

Khan told TechEye that the government needs to get serious about its support of science and innovation if it wants to use it to boost the ailing economy.

“We have to look at the big picture,” Khan told us. “While the government has announced capital funding for projects recently, which CaSE backs, the landscape is ultimately one of cuts.”

Khan continued: “If we want to base a rebalanced economy on innovation as government rhetoric has indicated then the only way to achieve this is to back the sector to support more discoveries. Vast amounts have been spent backing the bankers, but by 2014 there will be less funding available than there is now for the science sector.

“If the government wants to support future development then more spending is needed.”